Spare Change News
Two of Boston’s leading homeless shelters announced August 5th that they are considering a merger that they believe could allow them to have a greater impact in Boston’s fight to end homelessness.
Pine Street Inn, New England’s largest homeless shelter, and hopeFound, formerly known as Friends of the Shattuck Shelter, announced August 5th that they are moving forward with talks about a possible merger.
According to Mary Nee, Executive Director of hopeFound, The board of directors for both hopeFound and Pine Street Inn recently gave approval to continue exploring the benefits of a potential merger, Nee also stressed the talks were focused around strengthening services and are not being looked at for cost saving reasons.
According to Nee, hopeFound initially approached Pine Street Inn about a potential merger because Pine Street offered many of the services hopeFound had been looking to expand upon, such as housing and job training.
“hopeFound began the conversations,” said Nee. “It began because we were doing strategic planning for the future, and we were thinking about what were the kinds of critical services we needed to help us advance our mission of ending homelessness. When we looked at what we offered and what we needed; the needs that came about were access to more housing and really, job training.
“We asked ourselves the question, do we as an agency grow these service; begin to build housing, manage housing, develop job training programs or would we be better served partnering with another organization? It was really through that thought process that we look in our field and saw that Pine Street was an agency who we served the same populations, we share missions and philosophy’s around ending homelessness and moving people to housing and we found that we had a number of very complementary programs”
One set of programs in particular that complemented each other were Pine Street Inn’s job training program and hopeFound’s job placement program.
“Pine Street has a very strong job training program and hopeFound has a very strong job placement program, and so by aligning those two we hope that we could be even better able to serve,” Jennifer Harris, a Spokesperson for Pine Street Inn said. “This year we had nearly 100 people graduate from our three job training programs.”
Added Nee, “We have a large addiction treatment program, that’s not something that they’re significant in, we do a lot of job placement, but they do a lot of job training, and obviously they are one of the largest managers and developers of affordable housing for homeless individuals and that is a marvelous resource that we would like to have available to the people we serve.
According to Nee, both Pine Street Inn and hopeFound had already established a working relationship with one another before talks of a merger even commenced. Because of this relationship it made broaching the subject of a potential merger that much easier.
“Both agencies have a great deal of respect for one another and for our work, so that made it easy,” said Nee.
“We’ve worked on a number of joint projects, we’re part of a city convened group that’s looking at long term shelter stayers and how we can access housing for those folks, our street outreach teams collaborate on a day to day basis, we have operated for the past 17 years on impact employment services and one of our largest users of those services in fact are men and women who are living at Pine Street.”
Although cuts to public funding could affect service providers across the state, Nee stressed that the potential merger had more to do with strengthening programs and services that help the homeless then dealing with potential cuts in funding.
“We did not begin these discussions because we we’re trying to have cost savings. This was not about let’s be more efficient,” said Nee. “These discussions were all about, let’s have more impact.”
Nee also said that the discussion with Pine Street Inn would continue over the next three months.
“We began a conversation to say does this make sense, and at a very high level, our boards, think that there’s a lot of potential. So, what we’ve decided to do is to really have a more public discussion with our staff, our funders and our clients and really examine what would it take, would be the obstacles, what would be the benefits of coming together, and that’s what we said we’re going to do over the next three or four months.”